If a massive water footprint, air pollution, contaminated drinking water, earthquakes, and general environmental degradation weren't bad enough...
Well here's one we didn't see coming. According to a study from Yale School of Public Health, hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking, has been linked to increased sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Texas.
Hello, Pandora, here's a box.There are already so many problems linked to blasting massive amounts of water, chemicals, and sand into shale to crack it open for the sake of extracting limited supplies of filthy fuel that we do not need – from the massive water footprint to earthquakes (see more in related stories below). But a surprising uptick in STIs goes to show that when whole new technologies are let loose on the world, it is impossible to anticipate all of the potential complications.
The researchers from Yale found that rates of two STIs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, are 15 percent and 10 percent higher, respectively, in Texas counties with high fracking activity, compared to counties without any fracking.
The researchers looked at STI cases over the course of a 16-year period starting in 2000; a period long enough to account for pre-fracking trends in STI rates.
Yale explains that fracking often involves the influx of specialized workers into rural areas to meet the labor demands of the drilling rigs. "This mobile workforce is largely composed of young men living in temporary workcamps with limited connections to the community," writes the University, adding:
In this setting, workers may have opportunities to seek new sex partners, thereby changing sexual networks and increasing disease transmission in the community.
"These findings point to the potential importance of shale extraction as a social determinant of health, one that alters communities in a way that increases risk for STI transmission," said co-author and STI researcher Linda Niccolai, PhD, professor at the Yale School of Public Health.
The University says that the findings may be helpful for local public health officials and policymakers. Given the other deleterious effects of hydraulic fracturing, treatable infections may not seem like the most pressing matter, and hopefully there will be some helpful ways to address the problem. That said, cataloguing each and every misery associated with the industry may create a clearer picture of its impact – and that's valuable information for those trying to fight it..
"The findings in Texas add to the evidence of the social impacts in communities hosting the shale gas industry," said senior author Nicole Deziel, PhD.
The study was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Photo, top: In areas where shale-drilling/hydraulic fracturing is heavy, a dense web of roads, pipelines and well pads turn continuous forests and grasslands into fragmented islands.